September 19, 2023

What Might the Wind Blow In?

Sometimes after great loss comes great gain.

We never know what the wind might bring us or what it might take away.

One Sunday morning years ago, the wind brought me “Luke” the English Setter. He just appeared in the back yard and walked straight to the door. We halfway expected him to knock. One look at him and we knew he was Royally bred. Our family had kept Setters and Pointers for decades and my grandfather could take one look and with some certainty determine bloodlines. He proclaimed “Luke” as well bred. He was certainly handsome and friendly and curiously had wandered into our yard without a collar on.

Most all hunters put a collar on their dogs with an affixed brass nameplate that includes address and phone number in the event they are lost. Ours included REWARD. (Today, many dog owners use chips or GPS collars.)

As it was the beginning of hunting season, we assumed a hunter had simply lost him and was probably looking for him. So, Monday morning my mother called Luther, the local morning radio program with a description. Luther was a radio celebrity in our region and widely known as the “Jedi Knight” of restoring lost pets to their owners.

Weeks passed and no one stepped forward to claim him. My mother was persistent and I can still hear Luther’s voice on the radio “Well, Kay Rhinehart has called in again about that lemon and white English Setter they found.”

After a month we decided to keep him and that’s when I named him “Luke” as I had just watched the movie “Cool Hand Luke” and was mighty impressed by how cool Paul Newman was. Plus, I was studying Bible in school and it struck me how versatile the Gospel writer Luke was.

So it was that “Luke” came into my life. I had already taken him out hunting several times while we were waiting for an owner to claim him and he certainly was a cool customer; purposeful but with a “devil may care” attitude about him. And he was versatile. On one occasion I shot a woodcock beside the creek behind our house and he retrieved it to hand. Some dogs won’t pick them up. On another occasion I shot a wood duck off the creek and he dove right into the water and brought that back as well.

The one flaw “Luke” had was that he produced beautiful points on Quail — the only thing he would point — but he was decidedly not steady to the shot. As soon as he heard the gun go off, he was GONE. Sometimes he was gone so fast he was there when the bird hit the ground. No amount of training or coaxing could break him of this. Breaking on the shot was considered a fatal flaw in our family, so “Luke” and I hunted alone as my father and grandfather wouldn’t allow him around our other dogs.

This was fine with me as I had just lost my first hunting dog and “Luke” was becoming my buddy. It wasn’t perfection but it worked for us. Sometimes after great loss comes great gain. “Luke” had worked his way into the house after a couple of months and a week later was sleeping at the foot of my bed each night.

While my father didn’t approve of “Luke’s” bird manners, he grew attached to the dog’s comical and whimsical personality. Pretty soon “Luke” had worked his way into all our hearts and became family.

One day the wind took “Luke” away. I let him out at 6:00 a.m. like I had a hundred times before and he just never came back.

After weeks of searching and Luther broadcasting every morning, “Kay Rhinehart is still looking for that lemon and white English Setter and remember he has a collar on and there is a large reward,” no sign of Luke.

He was just gone.

There are many voices I hear on the wind. Some are from the beginning of my young life and some are painfully recent.

The wind took much away in a short few years after losing “Luke.” It took my best friend, who died in a horrific auto crash when we were 16, and in the next four years it would take all my immediate family and a love I thought would last a lifetime.

In spite of that, the wind would always shift direction and bring me some marvelous person or creature to fill the void.

Take those gifts that blow in on the wind.

They were meant for you.

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